One way to honor World Press Freedom Day: Imagine that world without broad access to information.

One way to honor World Press Freedom Day: Imagine that world without broad access to information.

Maybe it’s because I just came off a whirlwind week of journalism events—conferences hosted by Unity Journalists, the Society of Professional Journos, and the annual E.W. Scripps awards dinner—but there may be no better time to tout the value of a free press.

Which is why I’m happy to remind us all that today is World Press Freedom Day. As organizers describe it, “It is an opportunity to: celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom; assess the state of press freedom throughout the world; defend the media from attacks on their independence; and pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty.”

Read more about it here.

World Press Freedom Day 2016 1

This seems like a good day to point out that you should:

  • Hug a journalist.
  • Renew or subscribe to a news source you value.
  • Share with others great coverage you cherish, whether it’s about your community, your nation, or your world.
newsroom hug tumblr_inline_n81uveZnDS1r5hgbb World Press Freedom Day

Bring it in …

And don’t forget to hug a journalist.

journalist hug bbc 5710d4d1220000290025398c World Press Freedom Day

This week's journalism conference in Phoenix covers many topics of public interest. spj valley of the sun header cropped

This week’s journalism conference in Phoenix covers many topics of public interest.

I am pleased to share news of two conferences in Phoenix this week (April 28-30) that may serve your needs—in multiple ways. Aimed primarily at journalists, they will be of interest to anyone attuned to public policy, communications, criminal justice, and immigration.

I am helping to organize one of the journo conferences, with the Society of Professional Journalists, and I urge you to consider attending both of them. Links and agendas to each are below:

The Society of Professional Journalists Western Regional conference is on Friday and Saturday, April 29 (evening reception) and 30 (all day):

  • The Friday evening reception will be at Macayo’s. The conference will be at the Heard Museum. And the post-conference mixer on Saturday evening will be at the Clarendon Hotel’s Sky Deck.
  • The keynote of Saturday’s offerings will be a one-on-one interview of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio with Arizona Republic columnist E.J. Montini (for reals).
  • The full conference schedule is here.

Unity Journalists for Diversity logoAnd the UNITY: Journalists for Diversity conference is on Friday, April 29 (all day) at the ASU Cronkite School in downtown Phoenix:

  • The full conference schedule is here.
  • A day before the summit, Thursday, April 28, UNITY in partnership with ONE Arizona will hold a free special town hall meeting and panel discussion on immigration. The town hall will take place at Puente Human Rights Movement from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Register here.
  • UNITY also will be hosting a free rooftop networking reception at Hotel San Carlos on Friday, April 29, immediately following the Regional Summit from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Heavy hors d’oeuvres and refreshments will be served. Register here.

I’m helping organize the SPJ event, and I’ll be attending the UNITY conference Friday too. For a pretty modest outlay of dollars, this looks like some great content. I hope you can attend some or all of this!

Arizona Justice Robert Brutinel

Justice Robert Brutinel

A panel discussion on Friday, October 17, will cover recent changes to the Arizona rules controlling use of mobile devices in courtrooms. Sponsored by the First Amendment Coalition of Arizona, it will feature Justice Robert Brutinel, who chaired the 2013 committee whose recommendations led to the changes.

Those changes specifically were made to Supreme Court Rule 122.1 (use of mobile devices in courtrooms) and Rule 122 (video, audio and still photography in courtrooms).

As the Coalition describes the free event, “Learn what is permissible use of smartphones, tablets or laptops in Arizona state courtrooms and what is not, as well as the latest regarding use of cameras and recorders in court.”

The discussion will be held at the ASU Cronkite School of Journalism in downtown Phoenix.

The RSVP page (and more information) can be found here.

The local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists is a member organization I’m proud to call home. And that chapter is a charter member of the First Amendment Coalition. I hope you come out to join journalists, lawyers, law students and others as we hear about this important and evolving topic.

Society of Professional Journalists logoThis next item is a little market-y. Let me state that up front.

But if any of you have marketing and communications professionals in your firm or office (or if you do that work yourself), consider stopping by ASU SkySong tomorrow morning.

That’s where you’ll get to: (1) hear directly from news professionals across multiple media, (2) pitch your story (if you’d like), targeting your idea/story to the channels and niches that best serve your goals, and (3) have coffee with me.

OK, that last one may not be a big draw. But this is about my third year participating in the Society of Professional Journalists event, and it’s terrific. It includes some great panel discussions, followed by speed-pitching. Communications pros are there pitching ideas to TV, radio, newspapers, and even us monthly magazine folks.

Here’s a poster:

SPJ Publicity Summit 2014 pubsum14updated

Over the years, I’ve heard quite a few great pitches. But the great part about it is the speed-dating quality. A few minutes’ investment gets you some feedback, at least, and maybe a bite on the line.

More information is here and here. (Pre-registration may be closed by the time you read this, but there will likely be availability at the door.)

The location, again, is 1475 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale (2nd floor of SkySong 1 building, the NE building of the complex).

And because I know you’re curious, here is the latest list of journalists who will be there:

“JOURNALISTS SIGNED UP TO ATTEND INCLUDE: Kathy Tulumello, business editor, Arizona Republic; Nicole Crites, morning anchor, KPHO-TV (CBS5); Eric Watson, assignment editor, KPNX-TV (12 News); Al Macias, managing editor and Carrie Jung, reporter, KJZZ-FM;  Paul Ihander, news director/assistant program director, Bonneville Media-Phoenix (KTAR-FM/KTAR-AM); Melody Birkett, news director, KFYI-AM; Ilana Lowery, editor, and Hayley Ringle, technology/startups reporter, Phoenix Business Journal; Jennifer Jones, managing editor, Local News Service (CBS5, Fox10, ABC15); Heather Dunn, content director, Cronkite News Service; Sue Doerfler, deals reporter, Arizona Republic; Laurie Merrill, digital business reporter and former public safety reporter, Arizona Republic; Eric Mungenast, assistant managing editor, East Valley Tribune; Marie Look, editor-in-chief, Scottsdale MagazineCory Galvan, content editor, Frontdoors; Amanda Ventura, associate editor, AZ Big Media; Tim Eigo, editor, Arizona Attorney magazine; Kate Crowley, contributing blogger, “Chow Bella,” Phoenix New Times; RaeAnne Marsh, editor, In Business Phoenix Magazine; Teri Carnicelli, editor, North Central News; T. F. Thornton, North Valley news editor, Independent Newsmedia Inc. USA; Sondra Barr, managing editor, North Valley Magazine/East Valley Magazine; Debra Utacia Krol, freelancer specializing in environmental reporting, issues involving Indian country and travel writing; Tom Gibbons, editor, Talk of Arizona online quarterly, Kristy Durkin, blogger, whereshouldweeat.com, Michelle Jacoby, editor-in-chief/publisher of the soon-to-debut (October) dining/libations quarterly, Bite (the Magazine).… ”

Society of Professional Journalists logoOh, what a luxury it is to be learning.

This past Saturday through today (Monday), I am in Anaheim, Calif., to attend an annual conference of journalists. (The hosts are the Society of Professional Journalists and the Radio Television Digital News Association.)

As I’ve said before, people learn in all kinds of ways. I’ve had great luck with the podcast and the webinar. But it is hard to beat the occasional face-to-face gathering, where you are not tempted to multitask as a national webinar streams into your office. Sure, it may be more challenging for busy folks to attend in-person conferences, but boyoboy they still have a place in professional education and development.

For example, I am always on the prowl for the best way to cover Arizona’s legal profession. How does a small staff analyze and share what’s important for a state full of attorneys? I am sure that lessons I learn in Anaheim will help me in that challenge.

EIJ13 Journalist conference app screenshot

#EIJ13 Journalist conference app screenshot

I plan to tweet some from the Excellence in Journalism conference (Find me here.). You can follow all the tweets at the dedicated hashtag: #EIJ13

And the conference website is here.

There is a telltale sign that this is a valuable conference: Using the terrific conference app, I started building my own schedule of preferred seminars. Much to my chagrin, in every single time period, there are competing seminars I want to attend. That, I assure you, does not happen at every event I attend!

Like all learning, the seminars run the gamut from skill-building I can use this week all the way up to aspirational tools that might improve Arizona Attorney Magazine next year. But it will be good have the mental gears turning.

(With my conference registration, I also receive two park-hopper passes to Disneyland, which is just across the street. Will I manage to get over to the Happiest Place on Earth? Time will tell.)

I will report back later with some things I learned (I reported on some previous SPJ learning here). But here (in no particular order) are a few seminars I may attend:

  • Working and thinking digital first
  • Digging deeper with social media
  • Data mining: Finding important demographic trends in Census data
  • Facebook usage survey
  • Geek out: The latest tech innovations
  • Best practices for journalists on Facebook
  • Journalism, coding and you
  • Storytelling with Instagram
  • Journalism, the Department of Justice and national security
  • Storytelling with Google Maps and Google Earth
  • Mobile newsgathering with your Smartphone
  • Immigration coverage beyond the fence
  • Effective use of social tools for reporting
  • The perfect interview: Improving your skills

When I return, I’ll give you a roundup of my takeaways (and whether I met with Mickey Mouse).

He calls that messy? A submission from @jwswrites of his messy desk (on http://spjdesklove.tumblr.com/).

He calls that messy? A submission from @jwswrites of his messy desk (on http://spjdesklove.tumblr.com/).

I’d wager the following: Anyone who has a cluttered workspace will claim that they really really really do have a system, and that it works for them. They may even go so far as to say that clutter is the sign of an active mind.

Residing among my own stacks in the cluttered category, I’ve tried floating those old canards myself. The truth is, of course, that efficient and effective people land all up and down that continuum from “hoarder” to “frighteningly neat.” Whatever works for you, works.

This month, the Society of Professional Journalists launched a fun contest in which people could send in photos of their workspace clutter. They then posted those pics on their own Tumblr page (which is worth bookmarking), and some lucky (and cluttered) person won a prize (office supplies, I think). Here’s how they put it:

“Featuring your stellar work space, courtesy of the Society of Professional Journalists. Post a picture to Twitter with the hashtag #spjdesklove and we will give your desk some Tumblr love.”

I did not submit my space for consideration, but on Change of Venue Friday, I thought I’d share it with you (see below). The image in this post represents a relatively neat period in my own pendulum swing. Don’t judge.

And how about you? Are your stacks and your clutter an ongoing challenge? Have you tamed them? If so, how? (And I really mean it: HOW? I want to know!).

Have a great weekend.

messy desk my work space

A portion of my own work area: I’m actually kind of surprised how neat my “messy desk” looks on this Friday. Things are looking up! (Full disclosure: I’ve omitted my overflowing bookshelves and various other flat surfaces.)

Attendees gather for a Legal Marketing Association event featuring a panel of in-house corporate counsel, at Snell & Wilmer, Phoenix, Sept. 26, 2012.

This week, I get to interact with many communications and PR professionals, and that leads me to wonder: Could their best practices align quite a bit with those of lawyers?

That thought occurred to me as I prepared to moderate a Wednesday panel at Snell & Wilmer for the Legal Marketing Association. The panel was comprised of in-house corporate counsel, and the audience included both lawyers and communications folks.

It was a blast, and I continue to be impressed by the deep level of commitment and quality that emanates from the LMA. As I said in my opening remarks, their story pitches and sharing of information are what allow us to cover our beat well.

But story pitches—and lawyers—are much on my mind this week, mainly because of a panel I will sit on this Saturday.

The “8th Annual Publicity Summit” is co-hosted by the local chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists and the Public Relations Society of America. (Could those organization names be a little more intimidating, please?) I’ve been in the SPJ for years, and I’ll be on a panel of magazine editors, writers and reporters.

Here is how the PRSA describes the event:

“Now is your chance to secure that challenging story you have been working on or meet face-to-face with your favorite media person. [Beat] Join PRSA Phoenix Chapter and Society of Professional Journalists for the 8th Annual Publicity Summit and the opportunity to network with peers, meet key members of the Phoenix media and get your stories placed. More than 20 of The Valley’s top journalists and reporters from various media outlets across multiple beats will be in attendance.”

You can find more information and registration pages online. (Registration may be closed by the time you click the second link.)

It will be in the downtown Phoenix ASU Cronkite Journalism school. Please stop by to say hi if you’re there.

If Saturday’s group could learn anything, they should hear from members of the LMA, who routinely impress me by how well they can educate the media about lawyers and their accomplishments.

So what will the journalists be telling the PR folks? What we love love love in story pitches—and, conversely, what may be less than effective when trying to get your content placed.

The lessons that will be explained on Saturday should help those communications professionals (and us media attendees who may get great pitches). But it occurred to me that they are the same lessons that lawyers should take to heart when connecting—either with magazines or with each other.

Here is some of what I’ll discuss at the SPJ event. What other lessons would you add?

  1. Learn before you call: Like most media outlets, our magazine is available online. Plus, my own material is available via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, our website, etc. Given that, opening with “So what do you do there?” or “What kind of stuff do you guys publish?” is the path toward a very short conversation. And that’s true for lawyer connections, too: Read all you can about someone before striving to make a connection.
  2. Read our stuff: This is related to the first point, but it’s worth being explicit. Lawyers and magazines have an awful lot of their record “out there,” and it’s available via the web. Using Google to spot significant verdicts that have gone their way (or not) will help make your ultimate conversation more informed (even if you don’t explicitly bring up that searing loss!).
  3. Connect where it makes sense: Sending blanket queries to everyone and her sister simply does not work. Story ideas should be tailored to the publication and its audience. Similarly, lawyers don’t cotton to outreach that looks to have all the individuality of a widget.
  4. Reveal yourself: When you reach out to someone, let him or her know something about you and/or what you represent. Be sure your email signature provides access to relevant information. And don’t hesitate to provide links to other content that you think will make your connection to the other person more sensible.

Here’s to valuable connections! Have a great weekend.

Happy Change of Venue Friday. Have you ever wondered what it takes to publish a book? An organization guessed that people wondered about that, so they decided to shed some light on the subject.

The group is the Valley of the Sun chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, a great group of folks. Their idea was to gather a few published authors, invite folks, and hold the event in a place with great food and drink. So they hosted “From Journalist to Author: Turning Your Beat Into a Book.” Well done!

That is how I came to be at Monti’s La Casa Vieja in Tempe last Friday, October 7. That is a place with a lot of history, and they can mix an excellent martini. Most important, the panel was excellent.

The speakers were Jana Bommersbach, Shanna Hogan and Terry Greene Sterling. Each of them generously shared their thoughts on the highs and lows of book publishing.

One of the first changes you might note about that industry is represented above—every one of these accomplished women has her own website. That and the amount of marketing individual authors are expected to do are striking changes from the past.

This ain’t your grandmother’s publishing industry.

Click through to read more about these writers. Jana is an amazing author (from whom I once took a hilarious and insightful writing class) of the books Bones in the Desert: The True Story of a Mother’s Death and a Daughter’s Search and The Trunk Murderess: Winnie Ruth Judd. Shanna is the true-crime author of Dancing With Death: The True Story of a Glamorous Showgirl, Her Wealthy Husband and a Horrifying Murder.

And just to prove that it’s not all blood and guts, Terry spoke about her book Illegal: Life and Death in Arizona’s Immigration War Zone.

Their insights about the industry, agents and pitches were helpful. As a writer, though, I really appreciated their comments on that ink-stained craft of writing itself. For instance, Terry told us that “The essence of writing is understanding the human soul.” True that.

Shanna described her brave plunge from “fitting her writing in” to making it her main work. Attendees appreciated her honest assessment of those risks.

And then there’s Jana, who I’m sure would be able to make me laugh even as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse swept into town (“… and the horse you rode in on,” she’d likely mutter to the overly dramatic riders). She offered those gathered some suggestions that we all could use, whether we write book length or something smaller.

“Don’t overwrite the story,” she offered. “But you sure have to write the heck out of it.”

When you conceive of a book, she said, “Write a one-page treatment of it: If I can’t snare the reader in 500 words, I certainly can’t snare him in 15,000.”

Finally: “If you have the first sentence of your book and the last sentence of your book, you’re halfway home.”

Below you’ll find a few of my dreadful cell-phone pictures of the event. But you should go to the authors’ websites for better art and copy.

(And for an odd but related blast this weekend, head to—appropriately—The Trunk Space in downtown Phoenix, where the film “Murderess” will be screened. It is filmmaker Scott Coblio’s retelling of the Winnie Ruth Judd story—with puppets. It’s shown at 7:30 pm Sunday; click here or more information.)

Thanks to the authors and to the Phoenix chapter for such a great event. Have a terrific weekend.

L to R: Terry Greene Sterling, Shanna Hogan and Jana Bommersbach, Oct. 7, 2011

L to R: Shanna Hogan and Jana Bommersbach, Oct. 7, 2011

Here is a recipe for what sounds like an awful way to learn: Gather hundreds of people together in a few large rooms; require them to balance coffee and muffins on their laps while they juggle a notepad and laptop; place seats as close together as possible; start early and go late.

What I’ve described, of course, is the modern-day professional conference. But despite its 19th-century methods—plus the laptop and that dreaded PowerPoint—I have to admit that it often works. I’ve walked into exactly that scenario grim-faced and skeptical. When I walk out, though, I’m often reconstituted with a new sense of purpose—or at least with a hint of a new path to try.

I had another one of those experiences last week. When I returned to Phoenix from the SPJ conference in Las Vegas, I came back with quite a few great ideas. Will they take root? Hmmm. Well, the roots would have to shoulder their way through the stacks of work that remain on my desk—but I’m optimistic.

To help keep my feet to the fire, I’ve bullet-pointed a few of the ideas I came across, or the comments that struck me. And so here are a few more of my thoughts that arose at last week’s annual convention. 

  • Richard Gingras, founder of Salon.com: For every Facebook “share,” you get 10x exposure. Facebook referrals are roughly 10x those of Twitter.
  • Richard Gingras again: Facebook adoption outpaces Twitter, it is more mainstream, and it allows longer status messages, which may make people feel more welcome (and less risky).
  • I think that I met the four people at the casino who were nonsmokers. One of the people, a man, sat hunched over a slot machine while holding a handkerchief over his mouth and nose. When I caught his eye and asked why he tolerated the smoke, he just stared at me like I asked about his cell structure. (Note to self: Mind your own damned business.) 
  • 80/20 rule: 80% adding value to the stream with your comments, thoughts, humor and intellectual capital; 20% providing and pushing your own content (some say 90%/10%).
  • Online, be conversational, add attitude.
  • Yesterday I whaled on AT&T for its iworkwheniwantto 3G network. And no, I’m not done: How can AT&T still be solvent? “3G” should be changed to “MayB.”
  • Can you hear me (getting frustrated) now?

    No one says “widget-structured” better than Salon.com CEO Richard Gingras. #ilovejargon

  • From Google expert: If you don’t find what you’re looking for in the top 10 searches, abandon that search and go to “Advanced Search.”
  • Google tool for cellphone (under Advanced Search): Speak a phrase into phone, it reads back the phrase translated into language of your choice (“Donde esta la embajada Americana?”)
  • Use Google.com/trends for funny interactions. Pre-holiday search for “vodka” is huge nationwide. Two days later, “hangover” is the trend leader.
  • Google Moderator: Can’t host a candidate debate yourself due to limited resources? Google may help you host an online debate.
  • Prezi.com is cool new presentation software whose quick cuts may cause nausea, but which makes PowerPoint look like your great-grandfather’s chalkboard.
  • CNN is looking to recruit All Platform Journalists for various U.S. cities. But if you have to ask CNN what they are looking for in that kind of journo, you probably are not what they’re looking for (take that, conference attendees).
  • What possessed Apple to make an exclusive partnership with AT&T? I have two tin cans and a string, and I’m thinking of bidding for the gig.
  • Get to know Final Cut Pro.

For those who have slogged through a few days of these observations, I’m looking for a few great videos that were shown at the convention. Let’s aim for tomorrow.

I promised to report back with some of the tips and lessons I picked up at last week’s annual convention of the Society of Professional Journalists (which I wrote about previously here, here and here).

Later this week, I’ll provide a few videos (or at least links to them) that made an impression in Vegas. And maybe I’ll report on what the Las Vegas Sun is, and why you should pay attention to what they do and how they do it.

Once I wrote the list, I decided it was too long to foist on readers in one post. So I’ll give you my remaining observations another day.

So in no particular order, here we go with my highlights and observations:

  • In a workshop dedicated to social media, I should not have been surprised that there was no handout containing all the links mentioned and discussed. We were told they would be available online on the SPJ site afterward. Understood and agreed. But am I the only disorganized busy correspondent who finds it hard to remember to go excavating online when he returns to the office? Gimme a list.
  • Freelancers may have their own difficulties, but they do not have to beseech anyone above to try a new tool or to download a new free application. Lucky.
  • “Citizen journalist” is a term that irks many trained journalists. If you don’t know why, consider submitting your car to the meanderings of a “citizen mechanic,” or your body to the probing of a “citizen doctor.” Ouch. (Of course, I live in Phoenix, where rickety home construction makes me believe we have quite a few “citizen architects” scrawling about.)
  • The iPad was a great laptop replacement for conference lugging. But the delicate nature of the AT&T 3G network was maddening. It makes the device untrustworthy to carry to a story that I absolutely have to get.
  • Best overall tool for a journalist? King (or Queen) Google.
  • Was the presenter joking? Is Bing an acronym for Bing Is Not Google? (Don’t know. Must Google that when I get back to the office.)
  • My sympathy goes to conference organizers who promised conference-wide wifi, only to see it collapse numerous times. Take a breath. Pour a drink. Repeat.
  • Cool aggregator of mondo seach engines: Addictomatic
  • The next big story source: Census data, which will include a million stories waiting to be extracted.
  • News gear may be new and cool, but it’s about the journalism, not the technology.
  • But as long as we’re talking about technology, you’ve got to go to http://newsgear.info/.
  • In a session titled “Re-Imagining News,” Rob Curley of the Las Vegas Sun demonstrated that paper’s remarkable use of new media.
  • He mentioned something he used to say about his paper’s website, which we all might want to try for our own site: Can you imagine anyone saying about your site, “Wow, I can’t believe I was on your site for four hours last night.” Unlikely? Then it probably needs improvement.
  • Rob Curley: Every day give your readers a gift, something they weren’t expecting.
  • Also by Rob Curley: Online comments by readers are like an old bitter lover; they ruin my day, but I still love them.
  • Rob Curley, on the movement away from anonymity on the Internet: “Being who you are on the Internet is the new black.”

I warned you these would be random. See you tomorrow.